Program heightens abuse awareness

Kandace Sebastian

Rowgena Cain sat in DUC Theater surrounded by her fellow nursing classmates. Images of human bodies, both alive and dead, flashed across a projector screen set up on stage.

The slides showed Cain, a Leitchfield senior, and other audience members what to expect when dealing with domestic violence.

A mandatory domestic violence workshop was held Tuesday morning for nursing majors. Kentucky House Bill 309 requires that all nursing students attend a three-hour course dealing with domestic abuse before receiving their licenses.

As the lights dimmed and the presentation began, Cain thought she knew the basics of domestic abuse.

“Before I started the nursing program, I knew there was a lot of secrecy to it, but I did not realize the psychological and physical extent of the problem,” she said.

The realism of the situation was right in her face and presenter Deborah Knight-Williams, a clinical forensics nurse, was not holding back any details.

As Williams walked around the auditorium, her strong voice splashed the audience with antics and visual language as she painted a sad picture with her words.

“It is much more important to have a great deal of humor in what is done instead of standing in one place just putting up pictures that are going to hurt them,” Williams said.

Despite the subject, Williams received giggles from her descriptive and uncanny verbal imitation of intimate relationships.

The images of victims helped illustrate the difference between types of wounds and explained how to determine if the wounds are accidental or intentional.

Williams’s analogies hit Cain.


She found Williams’s examples beneficial in realizing the seriousness of domestic abuse.

Cain vividly remembers Williams’s account of shaking a baby.

Williams described the brain of a baby like Jell-O in a bowl with a top on it. You shake the bowl and the Jell-O rapidly hits the front and back.

Shake the Jell-O long enough, and it will liquefy: The brain of the baby will never grow.

Cain did not realize how the retardation of a human being could be placed into the hands of another.

“It was a good way to understand,” Cain said. “It was an eye- opening experience.”

Williams has presented information about domestic abuse nationally and has structured the workshop in a way that makes anyone, whether or not they work in the medical field, aware of the signs of abuse. This is the fifth year she has presented Western’s program.

Williams instructs individuals in the medical field to ask questions concerning their patients.

“You may not assess a victim unless you are used to looking for the red flags,” Williams said.

Important flags to look for: the victim is frightened by her partner’s temper; she frequently apologizes for her partner’s physical behavior; or she has to justify everything she does, every place she goes or every person she sees to avoid her partner’s anger.

Williams wants people to realize the extent of domestic abuse. One out of two women have been abused in their lifetime. One-third of college-aged youths experience violence in an intimate relationship.

Williams works for the Commonwealth of Kentucky justice cabinet as a clinical forensic nurse specialist, legal nurse consultant and sexual assault nurse examiner. She is also a family nurse practitioner.

Her workshop definitely touched Cain.

“It has definitely increased my awareness,” Cain said. “We saw real people and real cases.”

Reach Kandace C. Sebastian at [email protected]


If you or someone you know on campus needs counseling or help leaving an abusive relationship, call the counseling and testing center in Potter Hall at 745-6976.

If you or anyone you know is a victim of abuse by a spouse or partner, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233.